The 30-year-old was only recognised as a winger before being revitalised this season when he was moved into a central role at the tip of a deadly West Ham diamond by boss Sam Allardyce.
Suddenly everything seemed to fit into place for the former Liverpool and Aston Villa man as he helped orchestrate West Ham's best ever start to a Premier League season.
Downing found that he could now go left or right to beat a player and have a direct impact on the game where it hurt opposition teams most using a great range of passing, excellent touch and pace to his advantage.
His form was so good he was actually drafted into Roy Hodgson's England team but played through a knee injury and did not do himself justice.
West Ham's form has dipped alarmingly during the second half of a campaign which promised so much. And Hammers fans are quick to point out that Allardyce's decision to push him back out wide has coincided with the team and player losing their way this season.
Downing's last goal for the East Londoners came in their 3-0 win over Hull back in January. He surged through the middle collecting an Alex Song through ball to put the gloss on what was the first of only three wins in 2015 so far.
But it is a sight that has not been seen since as the Middlesbrough Academy graduate has been shunted out wide to make way for the likes of captain Kevin Nolan in the side.
For those fans who use the 'Downing factor' as a rod with which to beat their under pressure manager, they will now have even more ammunition.
That's because a team compiled by website Football Republik based purely on the Fantasy Football points of English players in the Premier League had Downing - with 149 points - alongside Liverpool's Jordan Henderson in the heart of the midfield.
Given his role in central midfield and the competition for places in that position in England, Downing's inclusion is arguably the biggest surprise in a team which also features the likes of Raheem Sterling, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Harry Kane, Charlie Austin and Leighton Baines.
Downing, who has five goals so far this season, was an early shout for the club's Hammer of the Year award such was his new lease of life in the middle of the park. But Allardyce's lack of faith in the player he paid Liverpool £6 million for has, in the opinion of many fans, cost his side dear.
At one stage this season Downing had more assists in the Premier League than any other player except Cesc Fabregas. And speaking to Sky Sports earlier in the campaign he revealed how much he was enjoying his pivotal new role.
He said: “I feel more involved playing in this new position.
“I'm enjoying it more, the manager wants me to be more involved. If you're under the cosh sometimes and you're on the wing you tend to do a lot of running without seeing the ball.”
How the England side based on Fantasy Football points lines up: GK Heaton (Burnley), LB Baines, CB Jagielka, CB Cahill, RB Clyne, LM Sterling, CM Downing, CM Henderson, RM Puncheon, ST Austin, ST Kane.